Hearts have got what they badly need in Robbie Neilson – a man with a proven track record.
I’m sure I wasn’t the only one caught by surprise on Sunday when I heard Robbie was returning to Tynecastle as manager. After all, the club hadn’t even announced the departure of Daniel Stendel.
It has been a strange few years for Hearts. When Robbie left the club for MK Dons four years ago, they went for a new approach with Ian Cathro and it was one which proved unsuccessful.
From there, Craig Levein, the former manager who had returned as director of football, was thrust back into the dugout in a role which I’ve never been convinced he actually wanted.
Then came Stendel’s arrival in December. Given he arrived just before the winter break and the season stopped in March, we never had the chance to assess whether he would have been a success or not. But with Hearts being relegated, the club has decided it is time to start afresh.
The emotional attachment of a club can be hard to resist and I think that is the case in this move. Robbie did a fantastic job in his first spell in charge at Tynecastle and I’m sure he will be just as successful again – once he knows what division his team is playing in.
While he will be excited about returning to Hearts, I do find myself wondering what now for Dundee United?
They have just won the Championship, were preparing for a return to the top flight of Scottish football and now their manager has walked away little more than a week into pre-season.
The speed in which the deal was done at the weekend was remarkable and it does leave the United board with their first real challenge since taking control.
The bookmakers have put former St Johnstone manager Tommy Wright as favourite for the job, but I’m not so sure about that one.
Tommy did a good job at Saints, but I’m not sure if he is the right fit for the Tangerines. Let me put it this way, I’d be more surprised at Tommy ending up at United than I was at Robbie returning to Tynecastle.
I know Scottish football can be a bit of a merry-go-round at times, but if the summer does end with the reshuffle at Saints – who appointed Callum Davidson as Tommy’s successor last week, Robbie to Hearts and Tommy to Dundee United, it would be remarkable. United won’t be short of candidates. They cruised to the title in the Championship last season and have a very strong squad already in place.
What’s more, they seem to have boardroom financial backing, as their pursuit of Kevin Nisbet of Dunfermline shows. They are in a strong position.
Our descent into fine farce
Scottish football has descended into farce following Hearts and Partick Thistle’s joint legal challenge against their relegations.
I would not deny them their right to fight against the drop, but I don’t quite see why Dundee United, Raith Rovers and Cove Rangers, the respective winners of the Championship, League 1 and League 2, should be penalised by being denied promotion.
That we have even reached this point is ridiculous, but in Scottish football I’ve learned nothing should surprise me anymore.
The solution has been there all along – reconstruct the league by increasing the Premiership to 14 clubs, promote Dundee United and Caley Thistle and let Brora Rangers and Kelty Hearts into the SPFL.
Unfortunately, clubs, already worried about the loss of income from the game grinding to a halt in March and the prospect of returning behind closed doors next season, voted to maintain the status quo.
That has prompted Hearts and Partick to come out swinging and I can only see this saga ending in one of two ways – reconstruction or compensation.
But good luck to Hearts and Partick if they think £10 million is coming their way.
There will be no winners from the mess this has become, but it has been clear for a while this was coming.
Good luck, Jonny!
Good luck to Jonny Hayes on his return to Aberdeen.
He could have gone to England for more money, but Jonny is at a stage in his life where wants to get that feeling of looking forward to playing every Saturday.
At Celtic it must have been soul-destroying to train all week then know you would be doing a warm-up then watching the game from the sidelines on the substitutes’ bench, but that is largely what Jonny’s Celtic career was.
He played some fantastic football while at Pittodrie and it is no surprise to see him willing to take a substantial pay cut to return there.
Even before Covid-19, Jonny was looking at a substantial drop in wages, but the fact he is still willing to sign on the dotted line shows how much he wants this move.